Christmas and Thanksgiving are two times each year that being jolly and generous is en vogue. With the arrival of Cause (1926 9th Street NW • Washington DC 20001), a new philanthropub, Nick Vilelle and Raj Ratwani give local foodies a place to be magnanimous 365 days each year.
A philanthropub is an restaurant or establishment whose purpose is to give a portion or all of their profits toward social good. Cause, which started as a sketch on a paper napkin, will allocate its profits toward four to six non-profits on a quarter basis. Customers can select to what organization their meal will go.
As a new small business Cause is keen to keep its overhead low. “We will be utilizing social media as much as we can,” Vilelle emphasized. “We are going to keep going with [social media], we’re going to advance it…”
The founders plan on using Facebook and Twitter for promotions. “I think that is really how it is going to spread like wildfire,” the organizational psychologist enthused.
Who’s on first?
Martha’s Table, Common Good City Farm, Higher Achievement, and Agora Partnerships round out the inaugural class of beneficiaries. Common Good is especially familiar with publicity. In May 2011, Prince Charles visited the urban farm during his tour of DC.
At its October 24 opening, Raj Ratwani underscored Cause’s open door policy, in that all customers are welcome. However the founders partly established the hideaway as a vehicle for gateway giving among DC’s under 45 crowd. This population spends the largest portion of their disposable income on eating out and the least on giving.
“What are trying to achieve here is… getting more people involved. It’s not just about getting funds, it’s about raising awareness of these organizations,” Ratwani explained.
While millennials are often derided for their lack of philanthropy, Vilelle and Ratwani believe this demographic merely needs a bridge to easy giving. “They donate the least because they don’t have a lot of money to begin with and are trying to achieve other goals in their lives,” Ratwani asserted.
DC Councilman Jim Graham of Ward 1 is among several local dignitaries to give Cause their nod of approval. “At first I thought ‘This is anti-American’ but then I thought ‘This is very much American,’ because the best of America makes sure that those who are least fortunate get the opportunity to improve their lives.”
Rounding the Corners
Statistically, “85 percent of bars and restaurants fail.” The main reasons are insufficient capital, expensive leasing arrangements, and inexperience. Knowing this, the plucky founders covered their bases. They raised $25,000 through an international crowdfunding campaign, bought the restaurant space, and enlisted experienced advisors. As if this was not enough to consider, the Ratwanis added a new member to their family.
The duo brought restaurateurs Dave Pressley and John Jarecki onboard during the planning process. Pressley and Jarecki have nearly 40 years of combined experience. The former, who opened Vermillion and Tallula, owns The Light Horse in Old Town Alexandria. To Pressley Cause’s opening will be memorable as it is his 12th such christening.
While Cause aims start locally, Vilelle and Ratwani hope to take their model international. With over 6 billion mobilfe phone subscribers worldwide, aa Cause app will be in the works. The founders have made no plans that yet but one can hope right?